OAKLAND -- Oakland police have made strides in reporting misconduct within the department and investigating witness retaliation claims, but needs better reviewing of excessive force complaints, according to the latest report from a federal monitor overseeing reforms.
Oakland agreed to a court-sanctioned reform effort in 2003 following the Riders police brutality scandal in which four officers were accused of beating up and framing drug suspects in West Oakland.
Reform tasks -- whittled down over time from 51 to 22 -- are designed to help the department improve accountability and prevent discriminatory policing.
The department's failure to complete the reforms resulted in a federal judge appointing an overseer last year with sweeping power to finish the job. Monday's report covering October through December last year showed a marked improvement from the previous quarterly report in which the monitor Robert Warshaw said that Oakland police had backslid on their reforms.
In that time, the department made 85 new hires, all of whom received at least brief training in reporting misconduct in the department.
Warshaw, a retired Rochester, N.Y., police chief who was named the department's overseer in March when Thomas Frazier was relieved of the position, credited Oakland's interim police Chief Sean Whent and Mayor Jean Quan for their commitment to the reforms.
"While there is still work to be done, the mayor's active engagement in the process, coupled with the department's earnest attempts to be transparent with the findings, constitute a new willingness" to meet the tasks and open public discourse, Warshaw wrote.
The report says that the police department is currently in full compliance in meeting reforms for 16 of 22 tasks, the highest level of compliance since an overseer was appointed to monitor the reforms in March 2013.
"We still have work to do and I am confident we can make the adjustments to bring the remaining tasks into full compliance," Whent said Monday.
In the last report, the department was out of compliance in tasks for reporting misconduct and internal investigations of witness retaliation. Since then the department has taken more seriously retaliation reports and increased training on misconduct.
"I think that while there's a way to go there's been improvements because I believe we have a command staff in place that's actively interested and motivated to get the reforms done," Jim Chanin, an attorney who represented the plaintiffs in the Riders case, said Tuesday.
Chanin added that the department should make the interim chief permanent "to provide the stability and leadership it needs to complete this process after so many years."
Noting that the department is at the highest compliance to date, he said "Let's give credit where credit is due. They are doing a good job in bringing the department into compliance."
A new police chief is scheduled to be named within the first two weeks of May.
Staff writer Matt Artz contributed to this report.